SweetSpot: Carlos Peguero

Some thoughts on Thursday's slate of games ...
  • ESPN Insider Dan Szymborski wrote the other day that it's time to break up the Phillies Insider and it's hard to argue with that assessment after their recent results. The Pirates won 6-4 to take three out of four in the series, holding the Phillies to 10 runs in four games and dropping Philly to 9-14 while the Pirates improved to 13-9. Cliff Lee went seven innings but threw 122 pitches and left with the game tied and the Pirates then jumped on Phillippe Aumont, with Garrett Jones' pinch-hit two-run double the big blow. The Pirates are fourth in the majors in ERA but it's reminding me of two years ago when there was a lot of smoke and mirrors and the pitching fell apart in the second half. Right now, the staff ranks 25th in strikeout/walk ratio and second in lowest BABIP.
  • Alex Gordon did this in the 10th inning as the Royals beat the Tigers 8-3. Gordon's blast was helped set up by an intentional walk to ... wait ... Jeff Francoeur. There were runners on second and third with one out with Phil Coke pitching and lefty-hitting catcher George Kottaras on deck, so you can sort of understand Jim Leyland's move. But I'm rarely a fan of the intentional walk to load the bases since it forces the pitcher to throw a strike. In this case, Coke could not, and Kottaras walked to force in the go-ahead run. Why not bring in righty killer Al Alburquerque to face Francoeur? He'd thrown 26 pitches the day before, but you'd think he could face one batter.
  • An intentional walk that worked: Rangers up 2-1 in eighth, runners at second and third with one out, Tanner Scheppers walks Joe Mauer and then gets Josh Willingham to ground into the 6-4-3 double play. The difference there: Mauer is better than Francoeur and a tough guy to strike out.
  • The Blue Jays hit Rajai Davis and Munenori Kawasaki 1-2. Shockingly, they lost 5-3 to the Yankees. Injuries or not, John Gibbons needs to stop doing things like this if the Blue Jays are to be taken seriously as playoff contenders.
  • Carlos Peguero did this for the Mariners. His 451-foot monster blast was third-longest at Safeco Field. No. 1: Barry Bonds off a young (and chunkier) Felix Hernandez in 2006. (Grainy video here.) Peguero isn't really a major league player, but at this point neither is Raul Ibanez.
  • Condolences to the family of former Braves pitcher Rick Camp, who died at the age of 59. Camp was involved in one of the most memorable games of the 1980s, the July 4, 1985 game against the Mets. Camp hit his only major league home run in the 18th inning to tie the game 11-11 (the Braves would lose 16-13 in 19 innings). Here's video of that home run (the setup by Braves announcer John Sterling and the reaction by Mets left fielder Danny Heep are classic) and here's the box score.

Winter roundup: Peguero, Altuve on a roll

December, 3, 2011
Former Arizona Diamondbacks and Oakland Athletics slugger Erubiel Durazo is in the midst of one of his best winter league seasons, playing with the Hermosillo Naranjeros of the Mexican Pacific League. Through his first 40 games, Durazo has hit seven home runs with 30 RBIs while batting .267 with an on-base percentage of .324.

Once a promising and powerful left-handed bat, Durazo’s career was slowed by an array of injuries. In his last full major league season in 2004, he hit .321 with 22 home runs and 88 RBIs for the A’s, earning him votes for American League MVP. His biggest highlight, however, came in 2001 when he hit a two-run homer off Tom Glavine in Game 5 of the National League Championship Series to help the Diamondbacks into the World Series. He was traded to Oakland in 2002.

Injuries kept Durazo to just 41 games in 2005, which led to his release by the A’s. He has since signed minor league contracts with the Rangers, Twins, A’s and Yankees, who released him in 2007. He has played in the Mexican summer league ever since.

At 37, Durazo said recently he would not mind returning to the majors and would consider an invitation to the Caribbean Series should his Naranjeros not win the MPL championship.

Peguero’s bat comes alive in the Dominican

Carlos Peguero, one of the Seattle Mariners’ outfield prospects, is currently leading the Dominican League in home runs, doubles and runs scored and is among the leaders in average and RBIs. Playing for the Cibao Gigantes, the left-handed hitting Peguero is batting .310 in 31 games with nine home runs and 24 RBIs to lead the Gigantes into playoff contention.

The Gigantes have also received a pleasant surprise from Erick Almonte, who eight years removed from his last major league game returned to the big leagues in 2011 as an outfielder with the Milwaukee Brewers. Almonte is batting .314 but his power numbers are way below pace with just six extra-base hits and only 16 RBIs in 124 at-bats.

Meanwhile, Yankees pitcher Hector Noesi continues to impress while pitching for the Licey Tigres as he earned Player of the Month honors in November with a 3-1 record and a 2.22 ERA over 28 1/3 innings.

Altuve tearing it up

Fresh off his first half season in the majors, Houston Astros second baseman Jose Altuve is in the middle of a monster season with the Magallanes Navegantes in the Venezuelan league.

The 21-year-old Maracay native is hitting .378 with an on-base percentage of .409 through 38 games, good enough to be among the league leaders in average, at-bats, runs scored, hits, doubles, triples, total bases, extra-base hits and slugging. Altuve is trying to make his case for the starting job with the Astros where he is projected to compete with Matt Downs.

Aviles to play the outfield in Puerto Rico

Aware that the Boston Red Sox have a gaping hole in right field, third baseman Mike Aviles will be joining the Ponce Leones this week to work on his outfield skills in hope that he can compete for the right field job in spring training.

Aviles, who hit .317 in 38 games with Boston last season, has experience in all four infield positions, but did not play the outfield in his first three seasons with the Kansas City Royals. He did play five games -- one in left and four in right field -- for the Red Sox.

Leones general manager Frankie Thon -- the brother of former Astros infielder Dickie Thon -- said Aviles should join the team this week and play for the remainder of the regular season.